Saturday, February 2, 2013

February 3, 1863 (Tuesday): Command Problems In the West

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE FRONTIER, Springfield, February 3, 1863.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
General-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.:
    GENERAL: I am compelled to say that I believe the interests of the service demand my removal from this command. While it would be mortifying to me to be transferred to an inferior one, I will cheerfully submit to it rather than remain here longer, because I believe it will be much better for the country.
    I do not desire to impugn the motives of General Curtis. He may be perfectly honest and sincere in all his official acts; whether so or not is immaterial. The fact is undeniable that his whole course, since I have been in command of his army, has been calculated to prevent my accomplishing any good result. He has discouraged every advance I have made and repeatedly ordered me to fall back. He detained me in Saint Louis nearly a week after I was ready to return to my command, for no other apparent reason than to give Blunt and Herron time to make their raid to Van Buren.
    As soon as I had arrived and assumed command, he ordered me to fall back. At length I got this order modified, so as to permit me to move east and south; but the mountains having become impassable, I was compelled to come round by Crane Creek. Arrived at that place, he refuses to let me go farther. I have been lying here five days, while the roads and weather are fine,and I cannot get permission to move in any direction.
    The entire force of the enemy in Arkansas is at Little Rock, or below that point. No force can be subsisted in Northwestern Arkansas by the enemy, and it is not possible for my command to do any good by remaining here. We must move to the eastern part of the State sooner or later, of course. Why not do it now, is more than I can imagine. It my be that supplies cannot be obtained by the river for some time to come; but this is no reason for our delay. We can move 100 miles nearer Little Rock, and yet draw supplies from Rolla better than now. Besides, we would be in position to unite with Davidson and Warren, should the enemy's force be too strong for this command; not that I believe it is. I have no doubt I can easily whip their entire force combined.
    General Curtis has at length decided that when I move I am to go via Forsyth and close the White River Valley. He has directed me to construct flat-boats for crossing the river at Forsyth (which I am doing), and a field-work or block-house, to protect the crossing. He also directs me not to move my main force over until ample means shall be provided for retreating, or bringing up re-enforcements. From what point? Davidson's and Warren's are the only forces available, and they from 100 to 150 miles eat of Forsyth.
    I have already lost six days since my eastward movement was stopped by General Curtis' order. The weather is fine,and the roads is splendid condition. With all possible exertion, it will take from seven to ten days more to get my army across the river at Forsyth, even if not interfered with any more. Long before that time my command would have been at Batesville, had I been permitted to proceed.
    I can see in all this no other object but to delay my movement and prevent my doing anything until some ulterior object can be accomplished; probably to give some other officer the command. What the reason for this may be I will not assume to say. If General Curtis lacks confidence in me, I ought not to command under him. Better that I be sacrificed, even, than that important movements be delayed a single day. Better give the command to any body, and leave him free to act, than to keep me here and forbid my doing anything. A fool could not go far wrong,so plain is it what should be done. Blunt and Herron are in Saint Louis, or were a few days ago, and doubtless their counsels have had much weight in determining the present delay and annoyance to me. I observe they are both nominated major-generals, and I know they both aspire to this command,and are favorites of General Curtis. Better that either of them have it than that the present state at Prairie Grove and elsewhere, and have shown their utter incapacity to command, yet they would be allowed to act, and could hardly fail, under present circumstances, to blunder into success.
    Do not understand me, general, as being dissatisfied with my command or wanting a higher one. I have a fine little army, and it is all I ask, if I can be permitted to use it. I did feel at one time, and so wrote you, unwilling to take, voluntarily, a lower command; but that feeling is gone. I will cheerfully accept anything to remove the present difficulty, because I believe the good of the service demands it. I will even content myself to remain here, if, after what I have told you, you think no change for the better is practicable.
    I have received my appointment as major-general, and, of course, feel much gratified by this mark of confidence. I would feel much more so could I be in position to render the service demanded by my additional rank.
     I am, general, yours, very respectfully,


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 22, Part 2, Pages 94-95.

Herron and Blunt had defeated Hindman at Prarie Grove in Arkansas in December.  Curtis was attempting to maintain an aggressive posture over a wide area of Missouri and Arkansas.  Schofield believed he was being over ridden in favor of Herron and Blunt.  He had been ill during the winter and naturally had fallen behind in Curtis' estimation.  He would be relieved as a result of this letter and moved over to command of the 3rd Division of the 14th Corp in the Army of the Cumberland.  Schofield was an effective commander, but would draw the ire of Republicans during the war for failing to support their more aggressive vision of war aims.

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